One of the best things about all of this great weather we’ve been having recently is being able to plan a proper day out or day in the garden with friends. Let’s go for a weekend cycle, how about a long Sunday walk, shall we invite friends over for a BBQ are usually not phrases you hear being used with gay abandon in Scotland! And of course, with all of this outdoor fun comes outdoor eating!
Without doubt, food tastes different when you eat it outdoors. It is unquestionably better. I think comes from the connection we have with our food when we eat it in nature. It’s a bit more mindful – no telly, no distractions, no turning up the radio. Add to this the fact that we’re usually eating it with our hands and you will see why more of our senses are focused and tuned into the task of enjoying what we’re putting in our mouths.
Which brings me nicely to this month’s topic. Picnic Loaves! One fabulous slice of foodie heaven that brings a host of ingredients together and is consumed in hearty bites from our greedy little hands. Now I love a full blown picnic as much as the next person but when all you want is good food at the end of a long cycle or walk, you need a way of piling lots of flavour, taste and texture into minimal space – no-one wants to be carting a picnic rug and prosecco bottles around in a backpack!
In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, this is a whole loaf of bread – do go for a freshly baked artisanal loaf from one of our fantastic local bakers if you can – which is sliced down the middle or scooped out, and packed full of layers of ingredients. It is the perfect carrier for cheese of any variety, hams or chicken, maybe fish. In between layers you can use fresh tomatoes, spinach, salad leaves or finely sliced or grated vegetables such as celery, carrots and peppers. Use mayo or spread to keep things ‘stuck’ together when sliced.
The result when you slice it is more calzone or pie than sandwich and I think this is another reason why I love it so much – the sheer delight of cutting into a cottage loaf and finding a whole treasure trove of seasonal delights is my idea of a perfect meal.
This image is from a wonderful recipe over on SimpleThings.com.
I use a ciabatta, slice it lengthways and scoop a little of the bread from the top and bottom halves. Then it’s time to layer it up – get some basil leaves on there for a good starting point, then fresh buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto ham and thick slices of Scottish beef tomatoes. Wrap in tinfoil, stick your bread knife into the loaf and wrap in a clean tea towel. Pack a wee pot of pesto for dipping and stick the whole lot in your backpack. You’re now ready for the best cycle you’ve ever been on!